JRC March 25, 2018 Newsletter

Vol. 9 #5 March 25, 2018

 This Is Your Captain Speaking

The Iowa Legislature, like an airplane approaching its destination, is making its descent.  Join us in praying for a crash-free landing.  It’s been a year filled with turbulence.  The 100th day of this year’s session of Iowa’s Eighty-Seventh General Assembly arrives on April 17th.  That’s a Tuesday for anyone who’s counting.  The one-hundredth day marks the end of daily expense money for legislators, an incentive for coming back to earth.

So, for the next three weeks, the Legislature is limited in the bills it can consider.  Of course, the limitation is a list of just about everything:

▪ Bills passed by both Houses

▪ Appropriations Bills

▪ Ways and Means Bills

▪ Government Oversight Bills

▪ Legalizing Acts

▪ Administrative Rules Review Committee Bills

▪ Committee Bills related to delayed or suspended Administrative Rules

▪ Bills co-sponsored by Majority and Minority Leaders of one House

▪ Conference Committee Reports

▪ Companion Bills sponsored by Senate and House Majority Leaders

▪ Concurrent or Simple Resolutions

▪ Joint Resolutions nullifying Administrative Rules

▪ Bills on the Veto Calendar

▪ Unfinished Business

It seems as though this list doesn’t leave much, but the volume of bills that it doesn’t include is massive.  Many qualifying pieces of legislation mentioned above are rare.  Ways & Means (tax writing bills) and Appropriations bills are the focus of getting adjourned for the year.

Because of Justice Reform Consortium’s mission, we occasionally peek at a Ways and Means bill, but have seldom supported or opposed one (but see SF 2394 below).  On the other hand, we do pay attention to appropriations bills.  Not that we can do much about it, but we do follow some appropriations.  We rely upon you to contact your respective legislators to voice your support or opposition to particular sections of bills – primarily the Justice Systems Appropriations.

Setting aside appropriation bills for the present time, we remain actively opposed or supportive of the following bills still considered to be alive:

HF 2394 and Senate File 2235 – These bills create the new crime of critical infrastructure sabotage, and the penalties they provide are atrocious.  JRC OPPOSES.  These bills provide for a class “B” felony and a fine of $85,000 to 100,000 for “critical infrastructure sabotage”.  JRC has expressed concerns that the fine could be considered an “excessive fine” in certain circumstances and could violate the Eighth Amendment[1].

“Critical infrastructure sabotage” means any unauthorized act that is intended to cause a substantial interruption or impairment of service rendered to the public relating to critical infrastructure property. However, “critical infrastructure sabotage” does not include an accidental interruption or impairment of service rendered to the public caused by a person in the performance of the person’s work duties.”

JRC believes the language is too broad to make exceptions for a labor strike; a possible protest protected by the First Amendment; an incident in which someone runs into an electric pole that knocks out power for a large portion of a city; and several other unforeseen circumstances.  We consider the language to be overinclusive and underinclusive.

Senate File 2382 is an Act modifying criminal code provisions relating to criminal records, penalties, prosecutions, appeals, driving privileges, and postconviction relief, and including effective date provisions.  This bill has been identified by JRC as a vicious attack on the courts in the past few newsletters.  Currently, an amendment supported by JRC and introduced by the House Judiciary Committee (unanimously approved in Committee), is pending on the floor of the House.  The amendment may be the demise of the entire bill, and that’s okay with us.  JRC believe this bill includes the constitutionally-prohibited act of logrolling.

House Joint Resolution 2010 and Senate Joint Resolution 2010:  These two pieces of legislation would start the process of amending the Iowa Constitution to include a victims’ rights amendment.  Called Marsy’s Law, JRC OPPOSES this measure.  We are reprinting what we wrote about this over a month ago:

We cannot say it any better than the Iowa Coalition Against Domestic Violence has said:

Invest in comprehensive victim rights and potections for victims of violent crimes – ICADV is unwavering in our support for all victims. We oppose Iowa’s Marsy’s Law (SSB 3040; HJR 2003) because experience tells us there are much more effective ways to support victims. Amending the constitution is a symbolic gesture that won’t make the criminal justice system any friendlier to victims. Establishing rights without legitimate remedy gives false hope to victims and diverts resources away from systems and services that can meet the comprehensive needs of Iowa victims. We believe this bill negatively impacts services and support for all victims, including the vast majority who will never set foot in a courtroom. The proposal contradicts essential principals of American justice and would upend our severely underfunded legal system to the detriment of victims. Iowa law already includes comprehensive victim rights and protections. Before amending the constitution, we should ensure we have adequately supported the systems and services that enable victims to access and benefit from statutory protections. The insensitivity and indifference experienced by many victims is not a constitutional failing. It is a failing of common decency by people, society and social systems themselves. Click here to read our full statement on Iowa’s Marsy’s Law. Click here to read our Victim Service Providers concerns of Marsy’s Law

HF 2443 – This bill addresses the delinquency jurisdiction of the juvenile court and the confidentiality and disclosure of certain juvenile court records.  JRC SUPPORTS this bill.  It is on the Senate Calendar and ready for debate at any time.

SF 2394 – A bill for an act relating to surcharges added to criminal penalties, court funds, civil fees, misdemeanor and felony fines and fines associated with scheduled violations.  JRC opposed this bill’s predecessor, Senate Study Bill 3202.  However, although the bill raises fees on page after page of criminal penalties, fines, etc., it does drastically reduce the criminal surcharges that have been attached to financial obligations owed by defendants in criminal matters.  After careful review, we decided to declare as UNDECIDED on this bill.  In any case (no pun intended), it is insulting and condescending to have the Legislature change the name of the fee from “Criminal Surcharges” to “crime services surcharges”. HF 2270 and SF 2230 – These companion bills redefine kidnapping in the second degree to include the kidnapping of a person under the age of 18.  Supposedly, this addition to the 2nd degree kidnapping would have prevented one person from being released from prison in which he subsequently kidnapped and murdered a minor.  We disagree with the rationale and facts in the case.  A prosecutor had the ability to charge the person with a more severe crime earlier in the person’s life but did not.  JRC opposes bills whose impetus is to address “one” previous case, especially one in which there is discrepancy about the nature of the criminal process.

As we mention often: A bill may become ineligible, but an issue NEVER dies!

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If you spot incorrect information, please let us know.  We strive to produce an accurate account of legislative activity in Iowa as it pertains to criminal justice.  We may make a mistake from time to time, but we admit our fallibility and work to give you a newsletter that we hope will inform you on issues not covered by mainstream media or other outlets.

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Life after Prison:  A New Guide for Iowans

Contacts

Mike Cervantes – Director of Inside Out Reentry Community 319-621-6263 insideoutreentry@gmail.com

Catrina Carter – Director of Reentry and Treatment Services for Iowa DOC 515-725-5713 (office)  515-314-2645 (cell)

Cord Overton – Communications Director for Iowa DOC   515-725-5707 (office) cord.overton@iowa.gov

Selected links:

 https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/15/us/hepatitis-c-drugs-prisons.html?partne Hepatitis C Drugs Save Lives, but Sick Prisoners Aren’t Getting Them. New York Times. By TED ALCORN  MARCH 15, 2018.

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/21/opinion/missing-criminal-justice-data.html Missing: Criminal Justice Data.  New York Times. AMY BACH  MARCH 21, 2018.

 

[1] Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

March 11, 2018 Newsletter

Vol. 9 #4 March 11, 2018

 Do as I Say

The Justice System Appropriations Subcommittee was late starting on February 28th because Iowa Senate Democrats were holding a caucus meeting in Room 24, while their Republican counterparts were down the hall in Room 22.  These closed governmental meetings called caucuses are where legislative decisions are made.  Regular committee and subcommittee meetings are scheduled and held to publicly perform caucus conclusions.  The House Chamber follows this same system.  The Iowa legislature passes laws that require political subdivisions, like cities, counties, and school boards, to conduct business in the open through a thick series of laws addressing open meetings and public records.  It doesn’t have to lead by example.

The caucus isn’t just for decision making, it serves as a support group for frustrated legislators to air their disappointments, and it also can serve as a delay tactic for passing controversial legislative bills both at the committee level and prior to debate in the chamber.  The consequence of this deeply engrained system is losing sight of representing the needs of the constituents.  The needs of the caucus have usurped the needs of the constituents.

One poor constituent visited the Iowa Capitol a few years ago to observe a Senate Judiciary meeting, not aware of the dramatic difference between legislative branch meetings and other governmental meetings operating in the open.  She was so excited to watch her government at work.  When the legislators scampered off to caucus, she turned to me deeply confused.  Fifty minutes later, they returned and voted out of committee a number of legislative bills with no meaningful discussion.  Watching this woman go from pumped up enthusiasm to utter and complete deflation continues to haunt me.

The “do as I say, not as I do” theory isn’t restricted to the legislative branch of government. When Jerry Bartruff, director for the Department of Corrections (DOC), marched into the Justice Systems Appropriations meeting with the usual entourage of correctional upper management in tow, he was PowerPoint presentation prepared for maintaining the myth that “everything is rosy” in the land of corrections.  The “do as I say” message from the governor’s office is very clear.  Don’t deviate from the proposed budget.  The DOC has had its budget slashed by millions, resulting in public safety concerns.

Although Bartruff dutifully fulfilled the executive branch’s decree, even miming the newest buzz words “data driven” decision making, the presentation became an excellent example of how data can be crafted to paint various pictures, depending on the argument.

His comments encompassed a number of issues:

  • DOC conducted a staffing analysis and now are getting rid of staff that wasn’t important. He coined the term “evidence-based staff”, meaning getting the right people by evaluating each for specific competencies and attributes.
  • The Department is shifting beds and staffing and also looks toward shifting classifications.
  • 73% of the funding goes to prisons—DOC wants to shift money to community-based-corrections.
  • Iowa’s violent crime rate is on a slow but steady rise. FBI data shows a rise in violent crime in rural areas, while going down in metro areas.
  • The 3 million-dollar grant for recidivism reduction was used for staff training.
  • An increase in use of tele psychiatry and tele medicine is a financial plus for the correctional budget.
  • The prison population is aging. As the age of the inmate goes up, so do the medical costs.
  • Focusing resources on recidivism reduction. Risk evaluation tied to needs.
  • The DOC toolkit is well-stocked with data-driven tools such as:

Validated Risk Assessment

Risk proficiency

Gap analysis/ cost-benefit programs

Staffing analysis and workload studies

Reclassified prisons for optimal outcomes

Evidence-based job descriptions

Despite the attempt to portray a well-organized strategy, a number of subcommittee members weren’t buying into the vast amount of jargon and gently questioned him on the data.

Rep. Gary Wortham (R-Storm Lake), Co-chair, requested that slide 13 break out the numbers to show the correctional staff that has direct contact with the offenders.

Sen. Rob Hogg (D-Cedar Rapids) stated that he was deeply concerned.  Crime is up and recidivism is up.  Five hundred people a year are returning to the system. He feels that the reduction in staff is related to the recidivism.  “Why are we seeing an increase in correctional officers being attacked?”  He wants the data in the presentation scaled accurately denoting the 18.7% reduction in correctional officers and the 4% inmate reduction.  If “this legislature doesn’t fund them, this legislature is responsible for the victims in crime.”

Sen. Mark Chelgren (R-Ottumwa), Co-chair, wanted to know why the DOC chose the specific states on slide 4 representing how Iowa was safer in comparison to “our neighbors’”incarceration rates (Missouri, South Dakota, Indiana, Illinois and Kansas).  Why not Minnesota, Wisconsin and Nebraska?

Rep. Marti Anderson (D-Des Moines) stated that “data helps to direct us, but there’s a human factor” and she’s very concerned about recidivism.

Sen. Julian Garrett (R-Indianola) felt that recidivism going up made sense.  More people are being paroled, so wouldn’t you expect recidivism to also go up?

Rep. Wes Breckenridge (D-Newton) the House ranking member, is worried about the funding being taken away with the staff assaults.

Sen. Robert Dvorsky (D-Coralville), the Senate ranking member, ended the question and comment part of the presentation by relating what a great job the DOC is doing.  He had heard that Bartruff was going to retire.

The meeting ended on a positive note and the budgetary discussions will take place, behind closed doors, of course.

 Rolling Logs

The Iowa Legislature has a process of eliminating certain bills from the in-box so that it can move on to more important issues, like the budget.  It’s called the funnel, and there are two of them.  The 2nd funnel occurs at the end of this week.  With several exceptions, a policy bill that fails to pass out of a committee in both chambers is ineligible for debate on the floor for the rest of the session.  As we mention often: A bill may become ineligible, but an issue NEVER dies!

A few bills that are of interest to Justice Reform Consortium and are theoretically alive as of this date:

House File 2395 – An Act relating to the criminal elements and penalties for the commission of sexual misconduct with offenders and juveniles and including effective date provisions.  This bill was requested by JRC.  It passed out of the House Public Safety Committee on Thursday, Feb. 15.  This bill must pass the House and survive passage from a subcommittee and standing committee in the Senate before Friday in order to stay alive.  JRC SUPPORTS this legislation.  In the recent issue, we reported that this bill had been amended prior to passing out of committee.  That information was incorrect.  See our disclaimer below. HF 2394 – An Act relating to criminal acts committed on or against critical infrastructure property and providing penalties.  JRC OPPOSES.  This bill provides for a class “B” felony and a fine of $85,000 to 100,000 for “critical infrastructure sabotage”.  JRC has expressed concerns that the fine could be considered an “excessive fine” in certain circumstances and violative of the Eighth Amendment[1].

“Critical infrastructure sabotage” means any unauthorized act that is intended to cause a substantial interruption or impairment of service rendered to the public relating to critical infrastructure property. However, “critical infrastructure sabotage” does not include an accidental interruption or impairment of service rendered to the public caused by a person in the performance of the person’s work duties.”

What do you think?  Does this language include a Labor strike?  A possible protest protected by the First Amendment?  Someone running into an electric pole that knocks out power for a large portion of a city?  We consider the language vague and overbroad.

See also Senate File 2235.  Both HF 2394 and SF 2235 are funnel-proof.  That means that the issue (either bill) is eligible for debate in its respective chamber until the very last day of the session.

Senate File 2382 is an Act modifying criminal code provisions relating to criminal records, penalties, prosecutions, appeals, driving privileges, and postconviction relief, and including effective date provisions.  We wrote about this in the last issue of the JRC Newsletter.  To our surprise, this bill passed easily out of the Iowa Senate with very little opposition or amendments.  JRC strongly OPPOSES this bill.  Please thank Senators Rob Hogg (D-Cedar Rapids) and Rich Taylor (D-Mount Pleasant) for having the courage to oppose this ogre of a bill.  JRC believe this bill includes the constitutionally-prohibited act of logrolling.

House Joint Resolution 2010 and Senate Joint Resolution 2010:  These two pieces of legislation would start the process of amending the Iowa Constitution to include a victims’ rights amendment.  Called Marsy’s Law, JRC OPPOSES this measure.

SF 2280, formerly SSB 1177 – An Act relating to law enforcement profiling by standardizing collection and centralizing the compilation and reporting of officer stop and compliant data, providing for officer training, creating a community policing advisory board, providing for penalties and remedies, and including effective date provisions.  Anti-Racial profiling.  This bill made it out of the Senate Judiciary Committee without amendments and is eligible for debate in the Senate soon.  Please contact your state senator and urge your senator to support this bill.  JRC proudly SUPPORTS this bill.

SF 2117.  An Act relating to public funding and regulatory matters and making, reducing, transferring, and supplementing appropriations for expenditures in the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2017, and including effective date provisions.  JRC is not declared on this bill.  It is a bill of interest, however, in that it cuts $3,405,688 from the Department of Corrections budget from now through the 30th of June.  Other than the Regents and the Dept. of Human Services, this is the biggest cut out of the budget.  For comparison, The Economic Development Authority is cut a paltry $132,000.

This list could be bigger, but it’s best to keep it manageable.  Let us know if there is a bill that interests you.  We’ll do what we can to incorporate it into future reports.******************************************

CORRECTION:  In the February 18 issue of the JRC Newsletter, we reported that HF 2266 – An Act relating to the restoration of the rights of citizenship, and providing for a contingent effective date, failed to pass the Legislature’s 1st funnel deadline.  That is incorrect, and we thank Rep. Mary Wolfe (D-Clinton) for bringing to our attention.  HF 2266 did pass out of the Judiciary Committee and has been renumbered as HF 2429.  However, it was amended to provide for an interim study committee on the matter.  JRC remains in SUPPORT of this bill.

If you spot incorrect information, please let us know.  We strive to produce an accurate account of legislative activity in Iowa as it pertains to criminal justice.  We may make a mistake from time to time, but we admit our infallibility and work to give you a newsletter that we hope will inform you on issues not covered by mainstream media or other outlets.

[1] Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted